The sound of tennis balls smacking the court is music to Alan Criswell's ears, as junior tennis players practice during a camp at the Antelope Tennis Center. As president of the non-profit Sacramento Community Tennis Association, Criswell has made it his mission to bring tennis into the lives of underserved kids. When Sunrise Recreation and Park District was planning the Antelope Tennis Center, shared by Antelope High School, Criswell advocated for more courts and to have the center designed to U.S. Tennis Association standards. Criswell organizes tennis camps, lessons and league events for both junior and adult players. "I love tennis. It's a fun sport and it's very inexpensive," he says. "We never had money to do anything when I was a kid so I want to make sure the kids who don't have any opportunities, at least have tennis."
July 21, 2013
A curious tabby reaches out from her kitty condo at the city's Front Street shelter and "makes biscuits" on Andrea Phillips' blue jeans. The cat's outgoing personality is exactly what Phillips hopes to see in a rescue. She checks to see how long the animal has been there and whether she's at risk of being euthanized. Phillips chooses four fortunate felines to join the Cats About Town Society's (CATS) adoption center, run by volunteers on weekends at the Natomas PetSmart. She coordinates intakes and arranges foster homes for the cats until they're adopted. Phillips, who also fosters dogs, often bottle-feeds kittens and puppies. All animals are vaccinated and spayed or neutered before they go to permanent homes. "I feel like I'm able to make change and really impact some lives," says Phillips. "It's important to show people how many amazing animals are out there."
Carroll Cooks envisions a learning center full of computers and kids full of enthusiasm in a renovated old building in Oak Park with walls painted gold to symbolize excellence. Cooks, 60, spent almost half of his young adulthood in prison but now dedicates his life to helping at-risk youth avoid the same pitfalls he faced. In 2007, he founded Sacramento's No Youth Left Behind Foundation of America, focused on tutoring and teaching life skills to young people ages 8-25. The new youth community center, soon to open at Martin Luther King Blvd. and 15th Ave., already has a strong presence in the neighborhood, with large banners lining the streets that say, "I CARE," an acronym for their youth crisis awareness campaign, Inner City Arms Round Education. "I see my part as helping people become more aware that we have a youth crisis in America like never before and to help people to respond," Cooks says.
On the same day as the funeral for his childhood friend, Kurt Lee, who lost his battle with acute myeloid leukemia, Sawyer Shader-Seave packs a bag for Capitol Hill to ask Congress to pass legislation to improve the lives of children with cancer. During the second annual Childhood Cancer Action Day event, the 16-year-old joins advocates from the National Alliance for Childhood Cancer in Washington DC, as their "secret weapon," sharing his own personal story of surviving medulloblastoma, an aggressive type of brain tumor. He says he hopes to bring awareness to issues facing pediatric cancer patients and legislation that would improve the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors. "Being a survivor myself, I have a unique point of view," says Shader-Seave. "Having had a personal experience, I think I can really speak from the heart."